How to Clean Your HVAC Return Vents

A return air vent at ground level in a house with hardwood floors.Claude Huot / Shutterstock

Your central air conditioning and heating system (HVAC) is equipped with air vents and return. Although both types of vents may require cleaning from time to time, you should pay close attention to the return vents.

The power vents blow hot or cold air, while the return vents suck the air to recycle into your heating and cooling system. Objects on the ground can fall into them, but when the system is running they expel air, which tends to push things like chicks away. The return vents, on the other hand, suck air when the system is running and tend to become much more dusty much faster.

How to find your return vents

If you do not know yet which vents are the returns, there are simple ways to find them:

Returning mouths are usually larger than mouths of food.
Return vents have no adjustable flaps, unlike supply vents. You do not want to block or close them because they aspire, and they can not do it if they are blocked.
They are sometimes located on the ceiling but, generally, near the ground.

Not sure if you are considering a return or a vent? When your HVAC system turns on, place a piece of paper next to the vent. If the paper is sucked into the vent, it's a comeback. Your home will have at least one return vent.

Why should you clean the HVAC return vents?

Keep your mouths clean so your HVAC system works more efficiently, but there is more to it. Clean return vents reduce allergens in your home and help keep the furnace filter cleaner (so it can retain more dust and allergens).

Cleaning the return vents

So, how do you clean these statements and how often should you do it? Here's a look at what you should do and when you should do it.

Things to do every month

Every month, you can take steps to keep your HVAC system running smoothly:

Change filter: In larger homes, the filter is usually located in the oven itself. In small houses and apartments with only one big return, it is often located there for easy access. The filter should be changed every month when your HVAC system is used. If a filter does not have a place to enter the date, put it in your calendar so that you remember to change it on time.
Clean the ventilation holes: Turn off the heating or air conditioning and cover the furniture if your ventilation holes are located on the ceiling. Vacuum with a dustproof accessory, then use a microfiber cloth to loosen anything that is missing from the vacuum cleaner. Avoid using water and cleaning products as they stain dust and turn it into a paste.

What to do the rest of the year

There are some things you can do less often to keep your return vents clean. In addition to filters and basic suction, twice a year, you can perform additional deep cleaning, including:

Cleaning the exhaust covers: Turn off the heating or air conditioning again. Remove the vent covers completely and wash them in the sink in warm, soapy water. Be sure to use a microfiber cloth and soak them for a short time. Also, do not rub too hard, otherwise the paint may start to peel off.
Removing oil from the vent covers: If you burn a lot of candles or have vents in the kitchen, you will need to remove the grease during deep cleaning. Rubbing alcohol quickly degrades the fat and does not require much friction.

If the intake covers do not fit into the sink, take them outside to clean them or use your bathtub. First place an old towel in the bathtub to prevent it from being scratched by the metal edges of the ventilation holes. No matter where you wash them, be sure to dry the vent covers before putting them back in place.

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